Promoting gender equality in the workplace - what can you do?

Written by
Chloe Chambraud
Business in the Community

27 Sep 2018

27 Sep 2018 • by Chloe Chambraud

Chloe Chambraud, gender equality director at Business in the Community, outlines what leading organisations are doing to promote gender equality in their businesses.

Last month, The Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2018 list was published in partnership with Business in the Community. While all the organisations have shown their commitment to creating fair and inclusive workplace cultures, there are a number of best practice examples from the list which other employers can learn from.

Getting more women into male-dominated sectors

Women are persistently under-represented in certain sectors, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Brave New World report we published found that by 2022, women will still only represent 30% of the UK’s digital workforce.

One organisation addressing this is Sky, winner of our Game Changer Award for its ‘Get into Tech’ programme. The programme provides women with little or no technical experience with skills for a career in software development or technology in general.

More than 100 women have enrolled in the programme since it began in 2016. Sky has also hired 23 women into software roles in the last 12 months and a further seven alumni have taken up new technology careers.

Another good example is Royal Mail, where the 14,000-strong workforce is mostly made up of postmen. The company introduced balanced shortlisting for post delivery roles, where managers are given a shortlist of 50% men and 50% women to choose the best candidates from. This led to women being appointed to 38% of new frontline roles last year.

Moving on up: women’s progression at work

Many organisations cited the lack of women in senior positions as a reason for their gender pay gap when reporting their figures. The question is, why are there fewer women at the top, what’s stopping them progressing and what can employers do to enable them to progress? As well as understanding what’s behind their pay gaps, employers must have a plan to increase the number of women in top roles.

Law firm Hogan Lovells, a finalist in the Business in the Community Gender Equality Award, set up a sub-group of its Women’s Network to develop initiatives focusing on junior female employees. After consulting employees, an action plan was developed which included providing training to partners on having regular feedback conversations and standardised, transparent promotion and work allocation processes.

Fellow Gender Equality Award finalist HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has also been focusing on women’s progression, particularly a programme which provides skills training for senior technical roles. Changes were made including promoting the programme on social media and increased emphasis on verbal and logical reasoning tests in the assessment process, where women tend to score better. Thirty nine per cent of those appointed to the programme are now women (up from 24%), and HRMC is looking at extending the programme to employees working part-time or other alternative working patterns.

It’s about men too

Whilst the focus has understandably been on women, it’s vital we involve men in workplace gender equality as well. One of the most effective ways to tackle the pay gap and gender inequality at work is through enabling men and women to play an equal role in caring responsibilities, which would significantly impact women’s progression at work.

Game Changer Award winner Accenture offers an excellent example of this with their Shared Parental Leave (SPL) policy. The company offers 32 weeks’ full-paid leave, equivalent to its maternity provision, and a new performance management model has been developed to ensure employees who take SPL do not lose out on opportunities for promotion when they return. Twelve per cent of eligible partners have applied for SPL to date (compared to a UK average of between 2% and 5%) and Accenture’s gender retention rate has improved, particularly at middle and senior management levels.

How can your workplace promote gender equality?

Use data intelligently

  • Carry out regular pay audits and take steps to address any gaps
  • Monitor which employees are progressing, including using intersectional data

Change your policies and processes

  • Ensure that recruitment, promotion, pay and reward processes are transparent and bias-free, such as removing gender-biased language from job adverts, using structured interviews and assessing performance through skills-based tasks
  • Include multiple women in recruitment and promotion shortlists and have diverse interview panels where possible

Ensure work is working for those with caring responsibilities

  • Make flexible working available to all employees and highlight that roles are open to flexible working in job advertisements
  • Offer SPL policies which are financially attractive and well-promoted throughout the organisation, and ensure that employees will not be penalised for taking time out
  • Offer policies for carers and equal parental packages, which will support employees with caring responsibilities to balance the demands of work and home

Build an inclusive culture

  • Investing in training for managers and ensure they have support from senior leaders to shift attitudes and behaviours
  • Clearly communicating your organisation’s bullying and harassment policy, making it clear that there is zero tolerance and offering formal and informal reporting channels.

Business in the Community